Project has right ingredients
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press
We've heard it enough to make us sick. An organization goes public looking for financial help to complete a project. The easiest target is government, specifically municipal government.
The organization bellies up to the bar begging for cash. It's for a good cause. The city will benefit. It's a good investment.
That may all be true, but give to one and you have to give to all. It's a rare occasion that anyone goes to those holding the purse strings and tells them they have a proposal that won't cost the city a cent and, in fact, will increase the value of the property the city owns.
Check the sky. There must be a blue moon.
The 2006 World Lacrosse London Corporation, the group that was successful in winning the bid to bring the 2006 world field lacrosse championship here, has taken on a longer-term project.
Tim Hobbs, co-chairperson of the world championship, calls the project "a win for everyone."
Hobbs and the city have agreed on a lease that would allow the lacrosse corporation to develop a parcel of land on Adelaide Street north of Windermere Road. The land is zoned agricultural-open space. There's a corn field on some of the land. The lacrosse corporation will pay a licence fee of $3,125 and the annual taxes on the land. They will do all the development and upkeep. The length of the agreement can extend for as long as 30 years.
A lot of organizations talk big ideas in improving facilities for themselves. These lacrosse guys mean it. They are working with the Fanshawe Optimists, who are using the development as a community project.
It wasn't long after Hobbs and his group managed to bring the 2006 tournament to London he began to envision a facility for field lacrosse. Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport in North America yet, outside of TD Waterhouse Stadium at Western, field lacrosse facilities are non-existent.
When Hobbs first talked about the idea of developing fields on the property, not many believed he would even get close.
Pending any last-minute problems, it appears he and co-chairperson Murray Wood have managed to pull the deal off.
Now Hobbs is hoping to begin grading the land as soon as possible.
"We'd love it if we could play some games in 2006 up there," Hobbs said. "We'd love to level out some of the land and plant grass seed on it so that it can begin to take shape."
That's quick but that's Hobbs. He hopes eventually there will be eight fields on the land, two of them artificial. Some of the fields will have lights but in an effort to keep abutting property owners happy, those fields will be located behind a tree line so they won't bother residents. Pending site plan approval and public input on where to put the lights, the plans can go ahead.
That's big thinking but that's Hobbs.
It won't all get done in a hurry. Whether it will all get done in the long run is open to debate, but Hobbs will do whatever he can to make it work.
"We've talked to other groups from other sports about sharing the facilities," Hobbs said. "The Fanshawe Optimists are eager to get things started. We've got to work with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority to satisfy all the requirements but I think we can get going quickly."
Estimates on the cost of the project vary. But contributions will be made in kind. For example, developers may be more than willing to donate the use of machinery and employees to operate it.
"Not only are we building a park but we are addressing a need the city didn't address. It's a win for lacrosse, a win for the Fanshawe Optimists and a win for the city. We're getting undeveloped land and when the city gets it back in 30 years they'll be getting a mature, developed park."
At no cost to the city and no liability.
It was an offer the city couldn't refuse.